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Purpose This paper seeks to explore the nature of complaint satisfaction with particular emphasis on the qualities and behaviours that male and female customers value during personal complaint‐handling service encounters. Design/methodology/approach A semi‐standardized qualitative technique called laddering was used to reveal the cognitive structures of complaining female and male customers. In total, 40 laddering interviews with 21 female and 19 male respondents with complaining experience were conducted. Findings The research indicates that being taken seriously in the complaint encounter together with the employee's competence, friendliness and active listening skills are particularly important for both male and female complainants. Females were more able than male respondents to develop strong associations on the highest level of abstraction and linked desired employee behaviors with several values. Female customers tended to be more emotionally involved than male customers as they wanted employees to apologize for the problem and sometimes needed time to calm down and relax. By contrast, male complainants were mainly interested in a quick complaint solution. Research limitations/implications Owing to the exploratory nature of the study in general and the scope and size of its sample in particular, the findings are tentative in nature. As the study involved students from one university, the results cannot be generalized beyond this group, even though in this case the student sample is likely to represent the general buying public. Practical implications If companies know what female and male customers expect, contact employees may be trained to adapt their behaviour to their customers' underlying expectations, which should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction. For this purpose, the paper offers several suggestions to managers to improve active complaint management. Originality/value The findings enrich the existing limited stock of knowledge on complaint management by developing a deeper understanding of the attributes that complaining male and female customers expect from customer contact employees, as well as the underlying logic for these expectations.
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Handling Customer Complaints
Handling Customer Complaints Effectively
A Comparison of the Value Maps of Female and Male Complainants
Purpose This paper explores the nature of complaint satisfaction with particular
emphasis on the qualities and behaviors that male and female customers value during
personal complaint handling service encounters.
Design/Methodology/ApproachA semi-standardized qualitative technique called
laddering was used to reveal the cognitive structures of complaining female and male
customers. In total, 40 laddering interviews with 21 female and 19 male respondents with
complaining experience were conducted.
Findings The research indicates that being taken seriously in the complaint encounter
together with the employee’s competence, friendliness and active listening skills are
particularly important for both male and female complainants. Females were more able
than male respondents to develop strong associations on the highest level of abstraction
and link desired employee behaviors with several values. Female customers tended to be
more emotionally involved than male customers as they wanted employees to apologize
for the problem and sometimes needed time to calm down and relax. By contrast, male
complainants were mainly interested in a quick complaint solution.
Research limitations/implicationsDue to the exploratory nature of the study in general
and the scope and size of its sample in particular, the findings are tentative in nature. As
the study involved students from one university, the results cannot be generalized beyond
this group even though in this case the student sample is likely to represent the general
buying public.
Practical implications – If companies know what female and male customers expect,
contact employees may be trained to adapt their behavior to their customers’ underlying
expectations, which should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction. For this
purpose, the paper gives several suggestions to managers to improve active complaint
Originality/valueOur findings enrich the existing limited stock of knowledge on
complaint management by developing a deeper understanding of the attributes that
complaining male and female customers expect from customer contact employees, as well
as the underlying logic for these expectations.
Keywords Complaint Satisfaction, Complaint Handling Encounters, Cognitive Structures,
Gender Differences, Laddering, Means-End Approach
Paper Type Research Paper
Handling Customer Complaints
Handling Customer Complaints Effectively
A Comparison of the Value Maps of Female and Male Complainants
Vargo and Lusch’s (2004) service-dominant (S-D) logic model emphasizes the role of
value as a customer experiential phenomenon. This model sees customers as experiencing
“value-in-use” during interactions with service or product bundles rather than value being
embedded in products or services themselves (Woodruff and Flint, 2006). This means that
companies can only make value propositions and “at best create the potential for value”
(Flint, 2006, p.356) while it is the customer who decides what is of value to them. In line
with the “value-in-use” approach, this paper investigates what complaining customers
value in personal complaint handling service encounters and seeks to identify whether
male and female complainants differ in what they value in such situations. For this
purpose, a semi-standardized qualitative research method will be used to gain a valuable
first insight into the value maps of female and male complainants.
Significance of customer complaining and complaint satisfaction
Many companies do not pay sufficient attention to handling complaints effectively (Stauss
and Schoeler, 2004, Homburg and Fürst, 2007). This is surprising as customer complaints
are a valuable source of important market intelligence (e.g. Priluck and Lala, 2009), which
companies should use to correct the root cause of the problem and to improve the service
or product (McCollough et al., 2000; Brown et al., 1996). Naylor (2003), however,
illustrates how few companies recognize the importance of customer complaining through
the estimate that fewer than 50 percent of complainants receive a reply from the company
Handling Customer Complaints
and those that do often view the organization’s response as unsatisfactory. It seems that
the issue of service failure is still not adequately addressed by businesses especially when
the seriousness of customer dissatisfaction for companies in the short and long term is
considered. Negative word-of-mouth (Lerman, 2006) and switching to competitor firms
(Homburg and Fürst, 2005), inevitably lead to the high costs of acquiring new customers
(Hart et al., 1990) if alternatives are available, if switching barriers do not exist, and if
customers do not have loyal feelings towards the company (Colgate and Norris, 2001). On
the other hand a positive approach to dealing with customer complaints should help to
maintain customers and generate positive communication about the company (Boshoff
and Allen, 2000; Stauss, 2002). Importantly repeat purchases by established customers
usually require up to 90% less marketing expenditure than do purchases by first time
buyers (Dhar and Glazer, 2003).
Current understanding of complaint satisfaction is limited (Kim et al., 2003) as
research has focused predominantly on the customer’s attitude toward complaining
(Richins, 1982), attribution of blame (Folkes, 1984), and the likelihood of a successful
solution (Singh, 1990). Further, research has focused on the complaining customer rather
than employee characteristics (McAlister and Erffmeyer, 2003). Consequently, little is
known as to how customers evaluate the recovery process (Holloway and Beatty, 2003).
However, recent work by Wirtz and Mattila (2004) found that satisfaction is the main
variable in service recovery, acting as a mediator variable and explaining the relationship
between post-recovery behaviors and service recovery dimensions.
Stauss (2002, p. 174) defines complaint satisfaction as “the satisfaction of a
complainant with a company’s response to her/his complaint”. It is the result of a
subjective evaluation process and Parasuraman et al.’s (1985) expectations-
Handling Customer Complaints
disconfirmation paradigm provides a useful analogy to understand the process: Customers
compare their expectations concerning the company’s complaint handling activities with
their perceptions. Customers should be satisfied if the experience exceeds expectations
and dissatisfied if not; the theory also suggests that they will be indifferent if their
perceptions equal their expectations but one might argue that at the very least the
relationship may be maintained in such a situation.
Role of customer contact employees
In general customers make their complaints in person to contact employees (Lovelock and
Wirtz, 2007; Brown, 2000) and therefore these employees play a crucial role in creating
complaint satisfaction. As customer contact employees are considered to have a critical
role in the recovery of failures (Maxham and Netemeyer, 2003; Boshoff and Allen, 2000),
they should also play an important role for creating complaint satisfaction in face-to-face
complaint handling encounters. We need to understand the critical contact employee
behaviors from a customer’s point of view if we are to provide customer satisfaction
(Winsted, 2000). This study suggests that it is largely the employee’s response, in such
face-to-face situations which influences the perception of the complaint handling
encounter and the overall evaluation of the company’s complaint resolution process. It is
the behaviors and attitudes of customer contact employees which primarily determine the
customers’ perceptions of service quality (Hartline and Ferrell, 1996) and their role is vital
for the recovery from failures and critical in creating complaint satisfaction (Bell and
Luddington, 2006; Kau and Loh, 2006). Interpersonal service situations offer an
opportunity to manage quality (Bearden et al., 1998) and establish what kind of service
delivery is satisfactory (Chebat and Kollias, 2000). The managerial implications are that
Handling Customer Complaints
once a company has recognized and understood complaining customers’ expectations,
they can ensure that contact employees are trained to manage their behavior appropriately
to match their customers’ underlying expectations. Such behavior should have a positive
impact on customer satisfaction (Botschen et al., 1999).
Categorizing customers by gender preferences
Categorization of customers may help employees to reduce complexity and better
organize, interpret, and evaluate customer interaction (Sharma and Levy, 1995;
Szymanski, 1988). For example, observable characteristics such as gender may be used to
adjust the complaint handling process to customers’ expectations and needs. While
research studies have identified differences between female and male customers
information processing and decision-making styles (e.g. Iacobucci and Ostrom, 1993;
Meyers-Levy and Maheswaran, 1991), listening activities in retail interactions (e.g.
McKechnie et al., 2007), and service quality perceptions (e.g. Spathis et al., 2004), only
few researchers have investigated whether female and male customers differ in their
complaining behavior (e.g. Keng et al., 1995; Solnick and Hemenway, 1992).
In a service recovery context, McColl-Kennedy et al. (2003) found that male and
female customers had significantly different preferences in terms of how companies
should handle service recovery. Their research showed women as being more
participatory than men, wanting more discussion during the service recovery process, and
favoring those service providers with appropriate social skills during recovery encounters.
They wanted to provide input, present their point of view, and be included in decisions.
While women were particularly interested in how the company handles the service
recovery process, male customers were more concerned with the outcome of a service
Handling Customer Complaints
recovery. Further, Hess et al. (2003) found that female customers have higher service
recovery expectations than male customers.
Objectives of the research study
In light of the limited knowledge in the area of complaint handling service encounters we
want to investigate how female and male complainants want contact employees to treat
them during personal complaint handling encounters. For this purpose, an exploratory
research study using the means-end approach and the semi-standardized qualitative
laddering interviewing technique (Reynolds and Gutman, 1988) was regarded as
appropriate as it allows researchers to gain a deeper insight into an under-developed
research subject. In particular, we try to reveal the attributes (qualities and behaviors) of
effective customer contact employees that female and male complainants value, to
understand the underlying benefits that they look for during personal complaint handling
encounters, and to graphically illustrate the findings in a value map.
The means-end approach and the laddering interviewing technique
The means-end approach was described by Grunert et al. (2001, p. 63) as “one of the most
promising developments in consumer research since the 1980s”. Woodruff and Flint
(2006) recommended that customer value research should focus more on means-end
theory as it supports Vargo and Lusch’s (2004) “value-in-use” concept. The means-end
approach (Gutman, 1982) which was directly referred to in Vargo and Lusch’s (2004)
seminal work, reveals the attributes of products, services or behaviors (the “means”), the
consequences of these attributes for the consumer, and the personal values or beliefs (the
“ends”), which are satisfied by the consequences.
Handling Customer Complaints
Attributes are the characteristics of a product or service while the consequences are the
reasons why an attribute is important. They are the psychological or physiological aspects
which motivate a customer to use a product or service. Values are personal and general
consequences which people strive for and as such are more universal concepts. It is the
links between attributes, consequences and values which form the means-end chains, the
mental connections that link the different levels of knowledge (Reynolds et al., 1995).
Early work in this area helped to resolve product-or brand positioning problems and to
link the consumer’s product knowledge to his/her self-knowledge (Gutman, 1982; Olson
and Reynolds, 1983). More recently, the means-end framework has been applied to
domains such as relationship marketing (Paul et al., 2009), sales management (Deeter-
Schmelz et al., 2002, 2008), service failure and recovery in the hospitality industry (Lee
and Sparks, 2007), business-to-business relationships (Rogers and Ryals, 2007), and
services marketing (Gruber et al., 2006).
According to Christensen and Olson (2002), the means-end chain approach is the most
prevalent framework for researchers to identify and represent both the content and the
structure of consumers’ mental models. Similarly, Valette-Florence (1998) maintains that
the means-end chain approach is of prime importance for the study of cognitive structures.
The term “cognitive structure” refers to “the factual knowledge (i.e. beliefs) that
consumers have about products and the ways in which that knowledge is organized” (Alba
and Hutchinson, 1987, p. 414). By linking newly acquired knowledge to existing
knowledge, consumers develop cognitive structures in their memory. Cognitive structures
guide the thinking and behavior of consumers in many aspects of consumption
(Christensen and Olson, 2002). In particular, they help individuals process incoming
information and interpret the world in a meaningful way by reducing the input from the
Handling Customer Complaints
confusing and complex environment which individuals inhabit (Chisnall, 1995; Zinkhan
and Braunsberger, 2004). Cognitive structures are often displayed as networks of
cognitive categories and the linkages between them. A system of means-end chains can
then be seen as an extract from the cognitive structure that is regarded as being significant
for explaining consumer behavior. The ladders revealed during the laddering process
normally uncover some parts of the respondent’s cognitive structure. These ladders are,
however, not sufficient to evaluate the respondent’s complete cognitive structure, which is
regarded to be an interconnected net of associations and not a set of single chains. Grunert
et al. (2001), nevertheless, propose that the ladders from a group of homogeneous
respondents appropriately analyzed can produce an estimate of this group’s cognitive
structure. Although the original means-end approach assumed consumer knowledge to be
hierarchically organized (Reynolds et al., 1995), modern cognitive psychology suggests
that cognitive structures are of a complex network (Herrmann, 1996). Thus we should
regard means-end relations as semantic relations between concepts with both hierarchical
and non-hierarchical relations (van Rekom and Wierenga, 2007).
In this study, laddering is the interviewing technique used to reveal means-end chains
as it is commonly used for the identification and mapping of cognitive structures and to
illustrate them in value maps (Christensen and Olson, 2002). It provides a way to gain
deeper insights into the consumers’ personal values and basic motivations and to examine
the consumer’s individuality in depth while still producing quantifiable results. Laddering
usually involves personal semi-standardized in-depth interviews where the interviewer’s
probing questions are used to reveal attribute-consequence-value chains by taking the
subject up a ladder of abstraction. For this purpose, the interviewer repeatedly asks: ”Why
is attribute/ consequence/value xyz important to you?”, with the answer to this question
Handling Customer Complaints
serving as the starting point for further questioning. The aim of the sequence of probing
questions is to identify cognitive relationships of personal relevance to the respondent
(Gengler and Reynolds, 1995). Laddering assumes that customers have knowledge about
the symbolic and/or personal value that products or services help them to achieve (Peter et
al., 1999).
Cognitive concepts gleaned during the laddering interviews are summarized in a
graphical representation of a set of means-end chains known as a Hierarchical Value Map
(HVM) (Gengler et al., 1995). An HVM consists of nodes representing the most important
attributes/consequences/values (conceptual meanings) and lines, which indicate links
between concepts. By graphically summing up the information collected during the
laddering process a HVM can be described as reflecting the customer’s voice (Zaltman
and Higie, 1993).
The exploratory research study
In order to achieve significant understanding of the main concepts, laddering studies
should include around 20 respondents (Reynolds et al., 2001). We conducted 40 laddering
interviews with 21 female and 19 male respondents with complaining experience. We did
not pursue further data collection at this point as we had achieved theoretical saturation, in
that no new or relevant data emerged, and all concept categories were well developed,
with the linkages between categories well established (Strauss and Corbin, 1998).
The study was carried out amongst postgraduate students aged between 20 and 45
years (X=24.8) enrolled in two business management courses at a European university. As
we were interested in the behaviors and qualities of contact employees and the majority of
Handling Customer Complaints
behaviors of service employees are the same across different service industries (Winstead,
2000) we did not ask respondents to think of a specific industry.
All interviewees were asked the question “Given that a service or product failure has
occurred, what qualities should customer contact employees possess and what behaviors
should they exhibit to create complaint satisfaction during personal complaint handling
service encounters?” The responses acted as the starting point for the laddering probes to
uncover the complete means-end structure. Questioning continued until respondents gave
either circular answers, or were not able or willing to answer or had reached the value
In this study we were particularly interested in the complaint handling process. While
research reveals that product or service failure severity has an impact on service
recovery/complaint handling encounter evaluations (e.g. Levesque and McDougall, 2000;
Mattila, 2001), we followed Weun et al. (2004, p. 139) who found that the influence of
the process of service recovery on post-recovery satisfaction is stable across varying levels
of service failure severity”. Therefore we did not distinguish between varying levels of
service or product failure severity. Importantly, Weun et al. (2004, p.141) showed that the
significance of interpersonal attributes such as friendliness and courtesy “is the same
across both major and minor service failures”. Furthermore, McCollough et al. (2000)
suggest that the severity of a (service) failure is specific to the context and the individual.
What one individual regards as a low-harm failure could be a high-harm failure for
another individual. Similarly, Mattila (2001) believes that every individual perceives the
seriousness of a failure differently based on both situational and individual factors.
Handling Customer Complaints
Data analysis
The collected laddering data were analyzed in three stages, as recommended by Reynolds
and Gutman (1988). Firstly, sequences of attributes, consequences and values (the
‘ladder’) were coded to make comparisons across respondents. For this purpose, the
decision-support software program LADDERMAP (Gengler and Reynolds, 1993) was
used to categorize each phrase from the questionnaire as either an attribute, consequence,
or value. During this first phase meaningful categories were also developed so that
comparable phrases and data points could be grouped together. Coding was an iterative
process of (re)coding data, splitting and combining categories, generating new or dropping
existing categories, in line with content analysis techniques (Krippendorff, 2004; Strauss
and Corbin, 1998). Categories were identified through phrases and key words that
respondents used during the laddering interviews, as well as from concepts derived from
the literature review and Schwartz’s (1992) value list which provides an overview of
generally held values. In this connection, Schwartz (1994) defines values as “desirable
transsituational goals, varying in importance, that serve as guiding principles in the life of
a person or other social entity” (p. 21). For example, individuals may wish to be rich or to
be powerful entrepreneurs. Values also include affects (feelings and emotions) related to
such goals. The attainment of a value will create a positive affect (e.g. satisfaction and
joy), while the impediment of a value will result in a negative affect (e.g. anger and
Grunert et al. (2001) point out that analysts have a lot of latitude during the coding
process. They, however, do not believe that the coding process will necessarily benefit
from having parallel coders. They suggest that the analyst who has conducted the
laddering interview “will be the best possible coder because she or he will remember part
Handling Customer Complaints
of the context information (and also better be able to clarify matters by referring back to a
tape)” (Grunert et al. 2001, p. 78). A second coder who does not possess context
information may carry out the coding task in a different way and intercoder reliability
scores would then be low. As a consequence, the two researchers who conducted the
laddering interviews coded the laddering data independently to ensure reliable
interpretations. Disagreements between the coders were discussed and resolved mutually
and tables 1-3 show the agreed concepts.
Insert Tables 1-3 about here
In the second stage, the number of associations between the constructs on different
levels (attributes/consequences/values) was expressed by aggregating individual means-
end chains across respondents which resulted in an ‘implications matrix’, detailing the
associations (i.e. ‘implications’) between the constructs. This matrix acts as a bridge
between the qualitative and quantitative elements of the laddering technique by showing
the frequencies with which one code (construct) leads to another (Deeter-Schmelz et al.,
2002; 2008). An implications matrix generally displays two different types of
implications: in a direct implication one attribute/consequence is stated directly after
another attribute/consequence in the same ladder, without any intervening
attributes/consequences. In an indirect implication two attributes/consequences are stated
in the same ladder but separated by at least one intervening attribute/consequence.
Finally, in the third stage, a Hierarchical Value Map (HVM) was generated. This
consists of nodes representing the most important attributes/consequences/values, and of
lines indicating links between concepts (Claeys et al., 1995). Such a HVM normally
consists of three different levels relating to the three concepts of meaning: attributes,
Handling Customer Complaints
consequences, and values. Frequently, the lower section of the map tends to be cluttered
and crowded due to the large number of attributes obtained during laddering (Gengler et
al., 1995). Therefore, avoiding several crossing lines (i.e. overlapping ladders) is
important for improving the interpretability of the HVM.
Two hierarchical value maps present the aggregated chains graphically, figure 1 (for
female respondents) and figure 2 (for male complainants). The HVMs only display
concepts of meaning at the cutoff level 2, so that at least two respondents had to mention
linkages between concepts for them to be represented in the HVM. Higher cutoff points
improve the interpretability of the map but result in a loss of information. The cutoff level
of two was chosen as the resulting HVM keeps the balance between data reduction and
retention (Gengler et al., 1995), and between detail and interpretability (Christensen and
Olson, 2002).
Results and discussion
The value map for female respondents (figure 1) reveals a complex cognitive structure.
The size of the circles represents the frequency female respondents brought up a certain
concept. The most important attributes for females are the contact employees’ friendliness,
active listening skills (“active listening”) and competence. Although employee’s
friendliness was mentioned the most often as an employee attribute, it is the employee’s
active listening skills which are of particular importance for female customers. The
importance of “active listening” is indicated by the width of the line joining this attribute
with the consequence “take problem seriously”. Contact employees who listen actively
receive, process, and respond to messages in such a way that further communication is
encouraged. This supports findings from the personal selling and sales management
Handling Customer Complaints
literature which suggests that an employee’s listening behavior plays an important role for
personal interactions (e.g. Ramsey and Sohi, 1997). In this research study such skills
whether inherent or through training appear to be particularly important for female
complainants as the strong link to “take problem seriously” shows.
Insert Figure 1 about here
Female complainants also want competent contact employees who have sufficient product
or service knowledge and prior experience to interact successfully with them. Frontline
employees should have knowledge about the product or service and they should know
what needs doing to solve the problem at hand. Van Dolen et al. (2004) describe
complaint handling competence as the extent to which employees can influence the
outcome of the interaction through their skills. Complaint handling competence is a
resource that contact employees bring to the complaint handling encounter and that does
not depend on the complaining customer's input during the encounter (Jaccard et al., 1989;
Van Dolen et al., 2004). Complaint handling competence consists of social, professional,
and methodological competence (Büdenbender and Strutz, 1996). In particular,
respondents want employees to have sufficient product or service knowledge and prior
experience to interact successfully with them. This reflects the work of Becker and
Wellins (1990) who found that customers want employees to have both an understanding
of the company’s products and services as well as those policies and procedures that relate
to customer service.
The consequence “take someone seriously” was by far the most central concept for
female respondents and was strongly linked with three values (“justice”; “well-being”;
“self-esteem”). “Justice” in particular plays an important role for female customers and
Handling Customer Complaints
implies that they, having spent money on a product or service that has not met their
expectations and now investing time and effort in bringing the problem to the attention of
the company, wanted fair treatment. Female complainants expected reciprocation in the
time and effort of employees of that company and so contact employees need to show the
effort they are making to solve the problem and to compensate female customers for the
costs they have incurred. Female respondents also believed that contact employees should
treat them in a friendly manner with courtesy and respect, revealing the importance that
courtesy plays in evaluating personal services (e.g. Chandon et al., 1997; Wels-Lips,
1998). Female customers also expected an apology (“excuse”) from the employee.
Further, “take someone seriously” was related to a fourth value (“security”), indicating
that female complainants wanted to have certainty in the resolution of their problem.
The main reason for complaining was to receive a “problem solution”, but not only did
female respondents expect employees to solve the problem, but also they needed to be
taken seriously and for employees to be motivated and willing to help. If employees
solved the problem, female customers would feel satisfied (“satisfaction”) and have time
for other things, which in turn would make them feel better (“well-being”). In being taken
seriously female complainants also expected employees to take time to ensure that they
were appropriately dealt with which corroborates with previous research by Hart et al.
(2007) in a retail setting.
Female complainants thought that they could assist employees in solving the
problem if they were relaxed and had calmed down (“calm down”). In general,
complainants often enter the complaint handling encounter in an angry mood which makes
it difficult for contact employees to resolve complaints as customers are not open for
Handling Customer Complaints
rational explanations and arguments. In these situations, the frontline employee’s
friendliness can help female customers to feel a bit more at ease.
Figure 2 shows that for male customers, the consequence “take someone seriously”
was also the central concept. While it leads to feelings of satisfaction, it was only strongly
linked with one value (“well-being”) as the width of the line between both concepts in the
HVM reflects. They also wanted frontline employees to be friendly, competent and
willing to listen actively. “Competence” is strongly linked with the employee’s complaint
handling activities, which should lead to the solution of the problem.
Insert Figure 2 about here
“Take someone seriously” is influenced by a large number of attributes. Male customers
wanted employees to get in contact with them again to find out whether the problem had
been solved accurately and satisfactorily (“feedback”). They also desired a personalized
approach (“personalization”) from courteous and empathetic employees. In contrast to
female respondents, male customers wanted a speedy resolution (“speed”) which helps
them to save time which they can better use to enjoy life and have fun (“hedonism”).
Unlike female customers, males did not mention that employees should take sufficient
time to handle the complaint (“take time”). This supports Hart et al. (2007) who found that
in a retail context male consumers prefer fast and efficient shopping. But this also appears
to reflect what might be a more fundamental difference between the genders with regard
to the process and outcome of complaining. For men the solution, so that they can save
time and move on to other activities (hedonism), is very important and while women also
require a solution to their problems, the way in which that solution is reached and
presented to them is critical. In contrast to female customers, male respondents mentioned
Handling Customer Complaints
the consequence “learning”, which suggests they wanted to learn something about why the
problem happened, and they expected contact employees to give the impression of being
unbiased (“objectivity”). According to the HVM, male customers particularly wanted to
satisfy the following values: “well-being”, which was mentioned 14 times and “justice” (8
times). Interestingly, customers who feel good (“well-being”) also felt freed from doubt
and have certainty (“security”). These complainants then also felt respected and confident
(“self esteem”).
Managerial implications
The paper’s aim was to give a first valuable in-depth insight into what complaining male
and female customers value in personal complaint handling encounters by revealing
several important constructs in their cognitive structures. The results of the study indicate
several similarities but also some differences between female and male complaining
customers. The laddering interviews reveal that, above all, contact employees have to take
complaining customers seriously as individuals. Interpersonal aspects such as friendliness
and listening skills are central to satisfying such basic needs (Oliver, 1997; Schneider and
Bowen, 1995). Similarly, Helms and Mayo (2008) recently pointed to the importance of
the “soft side” of customer service. While companies have to be sure they are dealing with
complaints efficiently they must also offer, what Chebat et al. (2005, p. 340) term
“psychological compensation” by responding appropriately to complaining customers’
emotions. As a consequence, companies should recognize the role of customer emotions
and recruit employees who are capable of detecting complaining customers’ emotional
states and dealing appropriately with them. Several values were cited as particularly
relevant and desirable, these include self-esteem, well-being, justice, and security. Above
Handling Customer Complaints
all, customers want to feel in good hands (“well-being”); female customers in particular
desire fair treatment (“justice”) and are more oriented to the process of complaint
satisfaction than their male counterparts. Customers who complain have spent money on
the product/service that did not meet their expectations and are prepared to invest time and
effort in bringing the problem to the attention of the company. For these costs,
complaining customers expect employees to make equivalent investments. Contact
employees need therefore to explicitly show effort, to solve the problem and to
compensate customers for all costs incurred. Respondents expect reciprocal courtesy and
respect from employees when the customer is being friendly, courteous and respectful to
them. For successful complaint resolution it is necessary for organizations to employee
people capable of treating customers in this way and therefore they should recruit only
those who are genuinely willing to help and to act on the behalf of their complaining
customers. The found importance of justice also supports findings by authors such as Tax
et al. (1998) who believe that customers expect company action and justice after having
voiced their complaints.
The analysis of the hierarchical value maps also reveals the differences in what
female and male complainants value: female customers were more able than male
respondents to develop strong associations on the highest level of abstraction (value level)
and to link consequences with several values. From a managerial perspective recognizing
other differences between males and females could be critical for appropriate complaint
resolution. This research suggests that female customers require a deeper interaction with
employees around this process. An important difference, for example, was that female
customers wanted employees to apologize for the problem and to take time to handle the
complaint and to ensure appropriate resolution. By contrast, male complainants were
Handling Customer Complaints
interested in a quick solution. This finding supports Reynolds and Beatty (1999) who
indicate that time-poverty could be a characteristic customer contact employees could use
to classify customers. Speed of resolution might be a useful approach to deal with male
customers while female customers may require more time intensive and process-oriented
responses. Another difference was that female, but not male customers, felt they could
assist employees in solving the problem by being relaxed, which would indicate that
appropriately friendly frontline employees could help them to feel more at ease in what is
often a nerve-racking experience.
Apart from these differences, the results revealed similar concepts valued by both
female and male respondents. For example, both groups want contact employees to be
competent, friendly and active listeners. These findings reinforce the need for companies
to recruit only individuals who are genuinely friendly and willing to help and to act on
behalf of their complaining customers. Companies need to engage with the importance of
training employees in how to treat customers in a friendly and respectful manner. For this
purpose, management should design training programs to enhance the customer
(complaint handling) orientation among frontline employees. While such programs may
represent a certain form of culture change for some, they should have a significant impact
on both employee’s attitudes and behaviors (Peccei and Rosenthal, 2000). Internal
marketing that can also act as a culture change initiative (Kelemen and Papasolomou,
2008) could also help improve contact employees’ customer orientation and help them
become more service minded. For internal marketing to be effective, companies,
however, need an internal marketing orientation (IMO), value their employees and be
responsive to their needs (Gounaris, 2008).
Handling Customer Complaints
After having taken part in these programs, frontline employees should demonstrate
positive service attitudes and behaviors. They should have internalized pro-social service
values and behave accordingly. It is of course possible, that some employees may behave
in an appropriately customer oriented manner but will not have internalized service beliefs
and values. Thus, the possibility of improving an employee’s willingness to help
customers through training may have limits and companies should therefore focus on
recruiting individuals who inherently want to help customers. It has to be stressed that
frontline employees should be genuinely willing to act on behalf of, and be friendly to the
complaining customer as respondents in our study believed they would notice feigned
positive emotions. Thus, an organizational setting is necessary that supports genuine
positive emotions among staff (Söderlund and Rosengren, 2008) and companies should
also reward customer contact employees who treat customers with attention, care, and
respect (Helms and Mayo (2008).
Further, companies should try to recruit individuals who have strong listening,
questioning, and verbal skills as complaining customers take these skills for granted. For
this purpose, several techniques (e.g. role-plays) could be used in the recruitment stage to
find job candidates with an appropriate level with such skills. As listening is a skill, it can
be learned, taught, enhanced and evaluated (De Ruyter and Wetzels, 2000; Ramsey and
Sohi, 1997). Ramsey and Sohi (1997) suggest the following training activities: Customer
contact employees could enhance their sensing skills by focusing more on concentration
and sensitivity (Sensing dimension of the active listening construct). Frontline employees
should also be trained to improve their capability to analyze messages and interpret their
correct meanings. Therefore, they have to increase their knowledge base by including
scripts and cues to their repertoire (Evaluating dimension). Finally, contact employees
Handling Customer Complaints
have to be able to respond better to customers; they have to enhance their verbal
communication skills and to improve their patience and adaptability (Responding
Organizations can help contact employees learn these skills through role-playing and
other appropriate training tools but companies also need to ensure that training in active
listening takes place throughout the employee’s career and not only during the initial
training period (Ramsey and Sohi, 1997).
Limitations and directions for further research
The research study has several limitations. First of all, as the study involved students from
one university, the results cannot be generalized beyond this group even though a student
sample is likely to represent the general buying public (Bodey and Grace, 2006) and our
respondents had both sufficient working and complaining experience.
Due to the explorative nature of the study and the scope and size of the sample, the
results are tentative While this study was conducted with postgraduate students enrolled in
two business management courses, what is now needed is similar research with different
sample populations. Results from these studies could then be compared and differences
and similarities revealed.
Further research could also take a dyadic approach and investigate whether customer
expectations differ greatly from what contact employees believe customers want as service
providers may not always know their customers’ service quality expectations (Bitner et al.
2000). Similarly, Mattila and Enz (2002) found a large gap between customer and
employee perceptions regarding service quality expectations. By conducting laddering
interviews with both parties, the resulting hierarchical value maps could highlight
Handling Customer Complaints
different views and compare customers’ and employees’ perception of the complaint
process. Insights gained could make contact employees and company managers aware of
differing perceptions and identify areas for staff training.
While it is expected that interviewers will record information in an unbiased
manner, there is, however, a possibility of interviewer bias when conducting personal
interviews. Consequently, interviewers have to be skilful in using the techniques of
prompting and probing as they could otherwise influence respondents to give an
‘expected’ answer. We have therefore tried to minimize personal leanings and not push
respondents up the ladder of abstraction but to accompany them on their way up. It was
important for us to find a balance between helping respondents to climb the ladder and
avoiding influencing their answers.
Most dissatisfied customers decide not to complain (Vorhees et al., 2006) rather they exit
the service (Bodey and Grace, 2006). Companies, however, should encourage dissatisfied
customers to complain so that they can solve the problem, learn from their mistakes and
introduce value enhancing innovations (La and Kandampully, 2004), and retain the
customer (Tronvoll, 2008). Companies who do not rise to the challenge of complaining
customers are turning down the important opportunity of reclaiming and improving a
relationship. Customers who complain are giving companies a second chance to
strengthen the endangered customer-provider relationship and rebuild customer
confidence, which has positive effects on customer retention and loyalty (Tronvoll, 2007).
This paper gives a valuable first insight into the cognitive structure of complaining
female and male customers and into the desired behaviors and qualities of customer
Handling Customer Complaints
contact employees to create customer complaint satisfaction in face-to-face complaint
handling encounters. The study results indicate that complaining customers are people
first and customers second, where the primary importance is the satisfaction of basic
social needs. Both female and male customers want contact employees to take them
seriously and to treat them fairly and courteously. The research suggests, however, that
identifying differences between men and women’s complaining behavior could prove
useful in terms of identifying the right person to deal with male and female complainants
and pursuing the most appropriate resolution strategy. In particular we suggest that women
may have a stronger process orientation than men, where the way they are dealt with by
employees is a more important factor than for men. Women, in particular, want to feel that
they are talking to someone that is sympathetic and listens actively but who also has
strong product knowledge and expertise.
This exploratory study has shown that the laddering technique is a useful tool in
“digging deeper” and examining cognitive structures of complaining customers and
illustrating them in value maps; we hope that fellow researchers develop further studies to
test the application of the laddering technique in their investigations of the cognitive
structures of individuals.
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Figure 1. Hierarchical Value Map of Female Complainants (Cutoff Level 2)
Notes: White circles represent attributes, grey circles consequences, and black circles
Handling Customer Complaints
Figure 2. Hierarchical Value Map of Male Complainants (Cutoff Level 2)
Handling Customer Complaints
Table 1. List of Attributes
Name of Attribute
(in alphabetical order)
Number of
in ladders
Active Listening
12/22 Contact employees should listen to what their customers are saying,
ask questions and hear customers out.
13/20 Employees should have sufficient service (product) knowledge and
the authority to handle customer problems adequately.
9/9 Employees should genuinely care about the customer.
2/9 Employees should be willing to take the customer’s perspective and
to understand the customer’s annoyance.
-/3 Employees should apologize for the service/product failure.
3/- Employee should get in contact with the complainant again to find out
whether the problem had been solved accurately and satisfactorily.
13/23 Employees should smile and give positive nonverbal cues.
4/5 Employees should be sincere.
4/4 Employees should be willing to try hard and to spare no effort.
3/- Employees should give the impression of being unbiased and
characterized by a matter-of-fact-orientation.
3/- Customers desire a personalized approach.
3/- Employees should handle the problem quickly.
Take time
-/7 Employees should take sufficient time to handle the complaint.
Handling Customer Complaints
Table 2. List of Consequences
Name of Consequence
(in alphabetical order)
Number of
in ladders
Calm down
-/7 Customers can calm down and relax from the nerve-racking
Complaint handling
10/12 Customers want to believe that contact employees will handle the
2/- Customers know more about product or service.
Openness (Customer)
-/5 Customers can be open with contact employees.
6/7 Customers want to be satisfied.
Save time
7/7 Customers can save time.
14/25 Customers want to get the impression that contact employees will
solve their problems.
Take problem seriously
6/12 Contact employees give the impression of taking the complaining
customer’s concerns seriously.
Take someone seriously
17/24 Customers want to get the impression that employees take them
4/5 Customers have confidence in the contact employee.
Handling Customer Complaints
Table 3. List of Values
Name of Value
(in alphabetical
Number of times
in ladders
3/- Customers are pleasure-seeking and want to enjoy life and have fun.
8/16 Customers want to feel equitably treated.
10/12 Customers want to have certainty and to be freed from doubt.
6/7 Customers want self-respect and confidence.
14/13 Customers want to be in good hands and to feel happy.
... Previous studies have emphasised the need to establish complaint management and service recovery processes within firms (Bambauer-Sachse and Rabeson, 2015;Estelami, 2000) and others have explored the role of customer's demographics on their perceptions of the complaint management experience (Chung-Herrera et al., 2010;Gruber et al., 2009). However, none have evaluated the impacts of the service provider's demographic factors on their complaint-handling behaviours. ...
... Current literature suggests that the perceived nature of complaints made by customers affects the way in which complaint handlers react, for example, employees who perceive complaints to be aggressive tend to respond in a "motivated close-minded" way (Traut-Mattausch et al., 2015). Additionally, a study conducted on the behaviours which are most valued by male and female complainants revealed that females valued emotional connections when their complaints were being handled as opposed to men, who demonstrated a greater desire for prompt solutions (Gruber et al., 2009). Evidently, when there are these differences in the complainants' expectations, it can be hypothesised that the complaint-handlers would react to complaints based on their perceptions of the complainant and complaint. ...
... This therefore allowed participants to freely discuss their thoughts on the impact of staff demographics before probes were offered on specific demographic traits that have found relevance in research on customer complaint behaviour. Such traits included gender (Chung-Herrera et al., 2010;Gruber et al., 2009;McColl-Kennedy et al., 2003), age (Chung-Herrera et al., 2010;Kasabov and Hain, 2014), education levels (Ngai et al., 2007;Sujithamrak and Lam, 2005) and nationality (Defranco et al., 2005;Emir, 2011;Ngai et al., 2007;Prayag and Ryan, 2012). ...
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Purpose A continuous issue which plagues all service businesses is the process of handling complaints. Whilst the topic has been relatively well explored, extant literature has failed to fully explore how staff demographics influence the methods in which they manage complaints. Design/methodology/approach A qualitative approach was adopted with semi-structured interviews. A purposeful sample was selected, inviting managers from hotels in Dubai to share their views on factors affecting the complaint management process, including the impact of staff demographics. Findings Staff demographics were found to have an impact on staff's approach to handle complaints. However, participants generally felt that, with sufficient experience, the impact of many of these influences would be negated. Originality/value Literature on complaint management has considered numerous mitigating factors affecting the complaint management process. The impact of staff demographics on how they receive and respond to complaints has not been thoroughly explored.
... Customer complaints and customer loyalty are two pertinent mechanisms to determine the level of customer satisfaction. The assumption is that customer complaints are a result of the failure of an organization to meet the perceived quality of their service and customer expectation (Gruber, Szmigin, & Voss, 2009). Customer complaints are also a checkpoint for the corrective measure to be taken by a company. ...
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The following is a detailed body of work that comprises research conducted on the Banking industry in Malaysia to understand the effect of multichannel banking services on customer satisfaction. The research explores this relationship using selected multichannel services: e-service performance, office performance, employee performance and telephone performance as independent variables and customer satisfaction as the dependent variable. The research relied on the questionnaire and the randomly selected respondents for its inferential statistics. Telephone service performance was found to have no significant effect on customer satisfaction with banking services. E-service performance, employee performance and office performance were found to be significant. The linear regression model provided a good fit for data as 46.8 percent of variability on customer satisfaction was as a result of the variability in selected multichannel banking services. The research utilizes these findings to give credence to the existing condition of the relationship that exists between customer satisfaction and customer service rendering in banking halls in Malaysia. It is a body of work that is complementary to existing Meta-analytic study on Marketing and business environment
... Most complaints do not require written responses (Levin and Hopkins, 2014). Facing complaints together is very important, and it requires employee competence, friendliness, and active listening skills (Gruber et al., 2009). ...
Conference Paper
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The 3rd International Symposium of Public Health (3rd ISOPH), was held at Wyndham Hotel, Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia from 31st October-1st November 2018. More than three-hundred attendees from 5 countries gathered to discuss research and applications in public health roles. The papers contained in this Proceedings cover a wide range of topics including: nutrigenomics and public health: the paradigm shift to disease prevention, tobacco use and dependence, health financing and health insurance, the application of ICT in health care, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases: threats to human health, maternal and child health, primary health care, mental health, nutrition-enhancing as strategic investment, occupational health, environment health, health politics and policy, non-communicable disease, communicable disease and tropical disease, emerging and re-emerging disease, health service management, community resilience and public health practice, disaster management. The members of 3rd ISoPH Review Committee reviewed 290 abstracts and selected 73 papers published in ISBN publication. Preparation of these proceedings would not be possible without the assistance of 3rd ISoPH scientific committee. Thank you to Prof. Dr. Mohammad Nasih, SE., Mt., Ak., CMA (Rector of Universitas Airlangga), Prof. Dr. Tri Martiana, dr., M.S. (Dean Faculty of Public Health), Dr. Nyoman Anita Damayanti, drg., MS. (Coordinator of Doctoral Programme in Public Health) and Purwaningsih, S.Kp., M.Kes (Chair of 3rd ISoPH Organizing Committee) for their guidance and encouragement.
... This is very important because the explanation and accountability from the company can build the credibility of the organization, thus potentially increasing customer satisfaction for the response received (Skar, 2018). In the process of finding a solution, hospital representatives should be able to show a serious attitude and pay close attention to each complaint submitted by the customer (Gruber, 2009). ...
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Hospital patients can respond to meet the expectations and realities of the health service they received. If it does not meet their expectations, there will be dissatisfaction. Consumer dissatisfaction is conveyed in the form of criticism and complaints, so good complaint management is required to provide an early warning system to anticipate serious safety incidents resulting in patient dissatisfaction. This includes complaints at St. Rafael Cancar General Hospital, Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara, where most patients complained about the completeness of inpatient and outpatient services, resulting in a review of the Management of Complaint Handling in Health Services at St. Rafael Cancar General Hospital. This research was conducted on internal management and external patients at St. Rafael Cancar General Hospital, Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara using qualitative descriptive method with observation and interview with public relations division and patients who have been treated at St. Rafael Cancar General Hospital. The results showed that the management of complaint handling at St. Rafael Cancar General Hospital has not implemented a tiered line of responsibility for complaints. The Public Relations Department often has a role as a complaint resolution party, even though its main function is as a mediator between customers and related units in the management of complaint handling at St. Rafael Cancar General Hospital. Supervision and documentation of complaints at St. Rafael Cancar General Hospital has not developed a Hospital Complaint Management Information System for the effectiveness of complaint resolution control. Patient evaluations showed that they were quite satisfied with the service and follow up on the complaints they have submitted, but there were some service facilities that they think still lacking.
... Most of the current activewear studies approach consumption and preference from a gender perspective (O'Sullivan, Hanlon, Spaaij, & Westerbeek, 2016). Gruber, Szmigin, and Voss (2009) indicate women activewear users are more likely to connect to the value level of consumer decision-making. Results from this study would suggest that women are more open to articulating needs and assessing the overall performance of activewear, offering a more complex assessment. ...
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Today, athleisure is one of the key trends in the fashion industry combining both casual style with health enthusiastic appeal creating a billion-dollar industry. Athleisure is the combining of activewear into women’s daily lives and their participation in physical activities. The problem-based learning (PBL) projects focused on athleisure apparel for various types of target market segmentations: 1) student selected customer target segmentation, 2) individual end-user, or 3) end-users of a specific company. Target market groups provided three unique PBL projects designed to improve students understanding of female athleisure consumer needs. Professional experts guided the students in the functional, expressive, and aesthetic considerations of athleisure apparel as defined in the FEA Consumer Needs Model (Lamb & Kallal 1992 Lamb, J., & Kallal, M. (1992). A conceptual framework for apparel design. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 10(2), 42–47. doi:10.1177/0887302X9201000207[Crossref] , [Google Scholar]). A conceptual framework for apparel design. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 10(2), 42–47) for each of the PBL projects. The unstructured PBL process allowed the students to develop questions and solutions under real-world situational paradigm.
... According to the research done by Loughborough university customer complaints should handle efficiently. (Gruber & Szmigin, 2009) Hypothesis can be shown as below. ...
Conference Paper
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Cyber Crime is on the increase everywhere in the world. A large number of people have become victims to this crime. It has affected not only the dealer, but also teachers and students to a great extent. Small children are now using the Internet very often. They can also be victims. In this context, the primary teachers who are teaching small children in schools have more responsibility in educating about cybercrime and cyber security The present study was conducted to investigate cyber security awareness among primary teacher trainees studying at Government Primary Teachers College, Addalaichenai. A normative survey method was adopted on a sample of 200 Primary teacher trainees selected by stratified random sampling technique. The data were collected by using Cyber Security Awareness Scale and Personal Information Schedule. The major findings of the study have revealed that there is low level of awareness among primary teachers on cyber security and there exists significant differences in cyber Security awareness among Primary Teacher trainees with respect to gender, locality, knowledge of computer, and having own computer.
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Globalization has increased competitiveness in the marketing environment, giving rise to the need for companies to adopt diverse strategies to stay competitive. Tronvoll (2012) posits that market competitiveness demands that companies employ measures to influence potential customers and retain existing customers, thereby increasing market share and profitability. To increase market share, Komunda & Oserankhoe (2012) assert that companies must ensure customer satisfaction through counter-measures before sales, during sales and after sales. According to Gruber (2011), one of the most significant counter-measures companies can adopt is customer service, for which customer complaints management is a critical component.
Kültür tanımlaması zor bir kavramdır. Kültür öğrenilir, miras alınmaz. Kişinin genlerinden değil, sosyal çevresinden türer. Kültür, bir yanda insan doğasından ve diğer yanda bir bireyin kişiliğinden ayırt edilmelidir, ancak insan doğası ile kültür arasındaki ve kültür ile kişilik arasındaki sınırların tam olarak nerede olduğu bir tartışma konusudur (Bruner, 1996: 3-5). Gelişen ve değişen çevrede farklı kültürlerin bir arada yaşaması gerekebilmektedir ve bunun sonucunda farklı kültürlerin etkileşim içinde olması kaçınılmazdır (Birukou vd., 2009: 4-5). Kültür aynı zamanda bir köprü gibidir ve geçmiş ve gelecek arasında bireylere aktarım sağlayan bir iletişim aracıdır.
Conference Paper
After-Sale Service Quality in India: A Case from Telecom and Automotive Industry
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The attainment of quality in products and services has become a pivotal concern of the 1980s. While quality in tangible goods has been described and measured by marketers, quality in services is largely undefined and unresearched. The authors attempt to rectify this situation by reporting the insights obtained in an extensive exploratory investigation of quality in four service businesses and by developing a model of service quality. Propositions and recommendations to stimulate future research about service quality are offered.
The authors develop and test a model of service employee management that examines constructs simultaneously across three interfaces of the service delivery process: manager-employee, employee-role, and employee-customer. The authors examine the attitudinal and behavioral responses of customer-contact employees that can influence customers’ perceptions of service quality, the relationships among these responses, and three formal managerial control mechanisms (empowerment, behavior-based employee evaluation, and management commitment to service quality). The findings indicate that managers who are committed to service quality are more likely to empower their employees and use behavior-based evaluation. However, the use of empowerment has both positive and negative consequences in the management of contact employees. Some of the negative consequences are mitigated by the positive effects of behavior-based employee evaluation. To increase customers’ perceptions of service quality, managers must increase employees’ self-efficacy and job satisfaction, and reduce employees’ role conflict and ambiguity. Implications for the management of customer-contact service employees and directions for further research are discussed.
Many companies consider investments in complaint handling as means of increasing customer commitment and building customer loyalty. Firms are not well informed, however, on how to deal successfully with service failures or the impact of complaint handling strategies. In this study, the authors find that a majority of complaining customers were dissatisfied with recent complaint handling experiences. Using justice theory, the authors also demonstrate that customers evaluate complaint incidents in terms of the outcomes they receive, the procedures used to arrive at the outcomes, and the nature of the interpersonal treatment during the process. In turn, the authors develop and test competing hypotheses regarding the interplay between satisfaction with complaint handling and prior experience in shaping customer trust and commitment. The results support a quasi “brand equity” perspective—whereas satisfaction with complaint handling has a direct impact on trust and commitment, prior positive experiences mitigate, to a limited extent, the effects of poor complaint handling. Implications for managers and scholars are discussed.
To practitioner and researcher alike, consumer values play an important role in understanding behavior in the marketplace. This paper presents a model linking perceived product attributes to values.
To understand better the determinants of selling effectiveness, the author proposes a framework for investigating the impact of declarative knowledge on the salesperson's ability to identify customers' product- and selling-related needs. The ability to identify properly the total set of customer needs is viewed as critical to the correct classification of sales leads into selling categories at the prospecting, sales call, sales presentation, and sale closing stages of the selling process. Differences in classification accuracy are proposed as key to explaining variations in sales performance. The differences in accuracy are posited to result from (1) the attributes believed to identify customer requirements, (2) the quantitative levels associated with the attributes, and (3) the degree of emphasis given to attributes in ascertaining client needs. Implications for sales managers are discussed and suggestions for future research are presented.
Recent research on joint or dyadic decision making has received renewed attention from behavioral scientists. This interest is due mostly to the advances in analytic and conceptual models used to study interaction processes. A number of related disciplines have used distinctive paradigms to study the same focal problem: namely, the processes by which two people interact, come to resolve a problem and, finally, reach a decision. Dyadic Decision Making presents in a single, integrated volume the conceptual and analytic strategies developed in communications research, marketing, psychology and sociology to investigate joint decision making.
Drawing upon Hirschman's (1970) framework for Exit, Voice and Loyalty, a model is proposed which predicts and explains variation in voice, exit, and negative work-of-mouth behaviors. The findings from extant consumer complaining behavior (CCB) literature are also incorporated into the hypothesized model. Using data from customer dissatisfac tion with three different service categories, the proposed model is subjected to empirical investigation. Despite the parsimony of Hirschman's framework, results show that the hypothesized model provides good model-fit indices in each of the three data sets. In addition, the explanatory power of the model is encouraging, ranging from 36 percent to 50 percent variance explained. However, the support for the hypothesized pattern of CCB rates across the service categories is mixed. Specifically, while voice responses con form to the hypothesized pattern, exit responses do not. Im plications stemming from a comparative analysis of the results are discussed, and directions for future research out lined.